Yes, You Can Still Plant Garlic and Here's Where To Get Seed

That's right. Lay your fears and disappointment aside. It's not too late to plant garlic.

In fact we feel good if we're getting ours in by the end of October.

To be honest, the fall harvest season on our farm is so busy that some years it's well into November before we get our garlic planted!

So, yes, you can still plant garlic now!





Why plant garlic?

Because garlic is so delicious!  Having your own fresh supply of garlic is unbeatable for taste.  In fact, it is one of the things that people say tastes the most different farm fresh as compared to the grocery store (in a good way!).

And guess what it's easy and rewarding to grow and harvest!  Garlic is a feel good crop that comes up super early in the spring and reminds you of the green life returning after a long winter. 

If you put nothing else in your garden, try garlic!



When to plant garlic?

Garlic is always planted in the fall in the Northeast. You can plant it from late September until the ground freezes in Central Maine.  Anywhere in this time frame will work out for you, whether the fall temps are a little above average, a little below, or right in the middle.

But, don't try to plant it in the spring. It needs the winter to prime it for growing big and strong next year.

So, now is the time! 



What kind of garlic should I plant?

There are two main kinds of garlic: hard neck and soft neck.

About hard neck garlic

Hard neck garlic is as it sounds. It has a hard stalk that comes up through the bulb called the neck. When it is harvested this neck dries down and remains hard and helps you open up the bulb when it comes time to eat it. This type of garlic sends up garlic scapes in early summer that are edible and delicious. This is the kind of garlic that we exclusively grow. Hard neck garlic cannot easily be braided.


About soft neck garlic

Soft neck garlic looks similar to hard neck garlic when it is growing, with a long green neck that comes out of the middle of the bulb as it grows. When it is harvested and dried down, the neck becomes soft and limp (but still dry). The benefit of soft neck garlic is that it can be braided into beautiful and functional displays for your house or to sell. Soft neck garlic does not send up edible garlic scapes.



Where to get seed? What to do with it after you buy it?

Garlic seed is tested for disease presence so that you don't have disease on your garlic when you plant it. Our farm does not sell seed garlic, but luckily, you can find it locally grown by local farmers at these resources.  It is best to arrange your garlic seed well ahead of planting and then just store it until you're ready to plant.  But if you're still looking for seed for this year, here are some resources for you.  

  • Maine Potato Lady (one variety left available)
  • Johnny's Selected Seeds (all out of stock for the season)
  • Fedco Seeds (a handful of varieties have availability)
  • Directly from farmers-- often farmers will sell you seed garlic directly. Inquire with them to see if they will.  Some of them will have it available at farmers markets or at farm stands.
  • You can also save your own seed!  Just save some big nice bulbs from your harvest and plant the cloves from those!  That's how we do it most of the time!

How much seed do you need?

Each clove represents one seed and goes in one hole and will make one garlic bulb next year.  But there are many, many varieties of garlic and each kind of garlic has a different average number of cloves per bulb.  Take a look at the descriptions of the varieties and it should say the average number of cloves per bulb as well as the average number of bulbs per pound.  Then you can calculate how far a pound of that particular garlic will go planted at 6" apart per clove.

Store your seed garlic at cool room temperature in a dry location. Do not break it up into cloves significantly before you intend to plant it.



How to get ready to plant garlic

Garlic is an easy crop to grow but it does like some extra loving at planting. Here are the steps to success:

  1. Prepare an area that is weed free and sod free (aka doesn't have lawn grass growing).
  2. Fork up the soil until soft and fluffy.
  3. Rake it smooth
  4. Apply compost liberally to the top and rake.



How to plant garlic?

Garlic planting is really fun! It's definitely something that we look forward to doing every year on the farm!

  1. Break up your garlic seed bulbs into individual cloves.
  2. “Dibble” or poke holes 2-4” deep in the soil about 6” apart in rows 12”-18” apart.
  3. Distinguish between the flattened root end and the pointed growing tip of your garlic cloves.
  4. Plant your “seed” aka one clove into a prepared hole by pushing the seed down into the hole until firmly “seated” into the hole.  Root end down and tip facing straight up.
  5. Rake soil lightly over the holes.



To mulch or not to mulch garlic?

That's a great question. We always have mulched our garlic every year, and we have virtually no loss of plants. That being said there are people who never mulch their garlic plants and still have very little loss either. So whatever you decide will be fine!

We mulch with straw. Other options for mulch are leaves, hay, or grass clippings.

We aim to have the straw as a loose covering of about 6”. Make sure whatever you use is not too matted so that the little garlic shoots can come up through it in the following spring.

If you get to planting your garlic very late, like right before the ground freezes, I believe it is more important to mulch it than if you plant earlier.



Last but not least, tips for successful garlic growing

So planting garlic is easy! So you've got it done. Now all you have to do is wait until spring to see the most exciting thing: little green shoots springing up from where you put them last fall! Yay! It makes my heart sing to see this every year. Like new hope beginning.

But don't stop there! Garlic is sensitive to weed pressure, so make sure to weed your garlic patch a few times before harvesting, especially if you did not apply a weed-suppressing mulch in the fall.

If you are growing hard neck garlic, make sure to look for the curly garlic scapes (immature flowering stalks) in late June/early July in Central Maine. They are edible and can be harvested by snapping them off the top of the plants once they start to curl over and downward. 

And harvest?? It is said that when 2/3 of the garlic plant's leaves start to die back and turn yellow/brown, it is time to harvest. Hard neck garlic is typically harvested a little later than soft neck garlic. For our hard neck garlic, we typically aim to harvest it by the end of July, no later than the first few days of August.



What are your tips for planting garlic??  Did I miss anything important? 

Please share with us here so we can all learn from each other!

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